On Keeping the Occult Occulted

I’m extraordinarily lucky in my occult practice that I live as a free adult in my ostensibly secular country, without the control or necessarily involvement of my family, coworkers, or even roommates.  I have my own apartment where I do what I want, I have my own income that I spend how I want, I have my own schedule that I set how I want, and I have my own practice that I effect how I want, largely without the supervision or interference of outside parties.  My family, though aware of and amused by my occult works, don’t have any say in what I do, nor will they disown me for living my life the way I find best.  My job is independent of my occult work and I am legally protected from incurring any punishment for my activities outside the workplace, especially as they pertain to my religious and spiritual beliefs and practices.  I live in a country whose laws protect me, my beliefs, and my free exercise (or lack of exercise) thereof, and where there’s a large and healthy occult interest where I can find many people to share my beliefs and discussions with openly or semi-openly.  And I count myself as among the extraordinarily lucky and fortunate that my boyfriend (and many of our friends, shared and otherwise) isn’t just permissive of the occult but is an active participant in it, studying and training in his own ways for his own purposes, and who mutually aids me as I aid him in our spiritual lives and growth.

Not everyone can be so lucky, however.  Many who want to study and practice magic, the occult, or religious lifestyles often cannot do so nearly as openly, if at all, given their living situations.  Sometimes it’s because their culture won’t permit it, finding occult studies and practices harmful or dangerous, and punishing those who engage in the occult with imprisonment, torture, or death.  Sometimes it’s because of their resources, where they simply can’t afford the space, tools, or supplies that many magicians use (and the temple’s worth of ceremonial regalia my type of magic is known for).  Sometimes it’s because they live with others in close quarters and don’t wish to disturb them or rouse their ire at engaging with this stuff, either out of respect for their housemates or out of fear of their reactions.  Many reasons abound for this, but I’d wager that the fear of religious persecution and oppression is a big one.  I mean, look at how religions like Santeria and Palo Mayombe developed under the slave trade in the Caribbean from their ancestral African forms; depending on the culture, occult and spiritual practices might be blended and merged with those of the slavers and colonialists, or they might be hidden away and kept furtive and secretive when the colonialists punish them.

And this is why magic, spirituality, spirit-working, and the like is called the occult.  The occult is called the “occult” because it’s literally a hidden, secretive, and unrevealed thing to most of the world.  It’s, quite literally, an esoteric study and practice, and though many magicians and occultists (including myself, obviously) have no qualms about talking about it in public, it’s ultimately an intensely personal and internal practice that cannot and can never be shared with others on a fundamental level; each person must develop themselves in their own way according to their own personality and internal self.  Whether it’s out of fear of persecution or merely misunderstanding, many occult topics simply can’t be shared or revealed to the public.  The fourth power of the Sphinx, “to keep silent”, is a development of this; by keeping silent about one’s work, not only will you prevent the world from fucking it up or fucking you up, but you’ll also keep the mysteries a mystery in the classical and original sense.  The occult truly thrives when it’s done privately, personally, and internally, and practicing it in such a manner will give the practitioner a true power that otherwise they might lack.

I was recently emailed by a young man nearing the age of majority who was living with his atheist parents yet wanted to study and practice magic in a way that wouldn’t disturb them or arouse their suspicions.  He couldn’t set up any kind of altar, nor can he perform any kind of advanced ritual; the most he’s been able to do are little amulets and charms and some invocation.  He wanted my thoughts and advice on how he might further his spiritual practice in this situation.  I can completely sympathize with him, too; when I first moved up to the DC metro region four years ago, I was living with my then-ex-boyfriend who wasn’t very spiritual, and though my spiritual work was just starting then, I didn’t want to do much when he was around, much less intoning arcane words of power or making holy water on Wednesdays when we both might be working at home and he needed the kitchen.  Still, I was able to at least start my spiritual practice regardless of his presence, and though it truly blossomed out after he left and I had the apartment to myself for a few months (and got over any apprehension about practicing magic with a future housemate), it was those initial months of practicing in a private and internal way that helped me the most.

First, never forget that no matter what the external world controls in your life, it can only ever control the external things in your life.  The people around you, the resources available to you, the places you find yourself in, and the like all only ever affect the external well-being and state of your life, like your body’s health, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the parties you go to or are made to go to, and so forth.  None of these things, however, are you, and none of these things can truly affect your internal self.  No matter what happens to you, you are the only one who can ever decide how you react to them and act based on them.  To draw a comparison with aikido, no matter where someone grabs you or attacks you on your body, they can never get your one-point, or center of balance; you can give them your center of balance and let them pin you to the ground, or you can maintain it and move them around no matter how they grab onto you.  It’s the same with the mind and the spirit; no matter what someone tells you to think or how to act, you are the only one who can determine what you think or how you act.  Once you’ve established this primacy and independence of mind from the world, you’ve unrepentantly and irrevocably opened the door to a new way of life, your own way of life.  With that done, everything else is just details.

So what are these details in terms of a spiritual and magical practice?  It’s the simple basics of stuff, really, that I keep harping on about when it comes to magical practice.  The most important resources you need for this are privacy and time, which you likely if you have the capacity to email me or read my blog from a first-world country.  If you have your own bedroom where you sleep at night, or if you have a bit of regular free time in an empty park or office room, you have all you absolutely need to engage in the occult.  If you live with others and if you have the time and privacy (and maybe the occasional excuse or cover-up) for masturbating or playing video games, you have the time and privacy for the occult.  If you absolutely don’t have the capacity for privacy even for sleep (and this is surprisingly common), ask those around you to give you a bit of privacy or seek it on your own; abandoned parks or buildings, empty rooms not your own, even the bathroom will work.  And, no matter how much you might argue, you will always have the time you need to do the occult.  It may not be as much time as you think you need, but if your life is so busy and jam-packed that you truly have no time for the occult, then you need to reconsider what it is you’re doing so you can make time for the occult.

With privacy and time, what can you do?  Plenty, especially if nobody’s going to peek in after you’re done or if you have the ability to leave things as they are after you’re finished.  Even if you can’t, though, there are four big things that you can do: meditate, pray, energy work, trance work, and visualization practice.  I won’t talk about any of these here, because you can find plenty of resources across the Internet and in books about these practices, but suffice to say that any and all of these things, which don’t depend on any physical tools except your own body and breath, are necessary and fundamental to occult practice.  Hell, even if you can dedicate 20 minutes a day every day for private prayer and meditation, you’ve already got 75% of magical practice down right there.  I cannot understate the importance of these few disciplines; everything else in magic, the occult, spirituality, and religion is based off these things.

Besides that, what else can you do?  Study!  Read and absorb as much as you can and whatever you care to.  Nobody (with the exception of the NSA and especially nosy parents) is going to be looking at your browsing history on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, and you can always clear the cache and history when you’re done (and if you ever grew up using a family computer as an adolescent male at nighttime when everyone else was asleep, this should be second nature to you).  If you don’t want people to see your library, get an e-reader and download copies of texts.  We live in a time when an unimaginable wealth of occult and spiritual lore and information is freely and instantly available to ourselves at the speed of thought; by all means, use it!  Study correspondence tables, sacred geometry, the history and development of religious sects, the seals and sigils of spirits, and the like.  Practice drawing out the Tree of Life with a compass and straightedge, and learn how to write in Hebrew and Greek and the magical variants of their writing systems.  Keep a private journal where you note important connections you make, dreams you have, odd happenstance circumstances, how deep your last meditation was, important prayers you have a fancy for, and the like.  Just because you aren’t able to have a blog with oh-so-many devoted readers and shelves upon shelves of magical texts and tools doesn’t mean you can’t keep your own record, notes, and doodles that an untrained eye would think is no more than a student exploring simple art or playful ciphers.

Anything else?  With altars and offerings, you may not be able to erect a permanent shrine to a particular deity, nor might you be able to set up a permanent altar with an array of magical tools synced up in a particular way.  You might not be able to light candles or incense and leave them burning for long periods of time.  You might not be able to make offerings of wine, water, or food.  All of this is entirely okay, and aren’t strictly necessary.  If you absolutely need a working space, clear off a small side table or a reasonably-sized area on the floor.  Pack up your tools when you’re done, and be simple and minimal with your tools if you even need them at all: use a paper printout of a Table of Practice or draw one out on a whiteboard or chalkboard, use a sharpened pencil or a single matchstick (or even your index finger!) as your wand, use a pocketknife as a ritual blade, use a shotglass as a chalice, use a cup of water as a scrying medium, use a colorful bandanna as an altar cloth.  Leave offerings out only for as long as you have privacy and time, and dispose of them in the trash, the drain, the compost, or out the window when you’re done.  Use electric candles, scented candles, an oil diffuser, or a wax melter instead of traditional candles or incense.  Or, rather, don’t do any of this at all, and keep everything internal and personal in an astral temple with visualization and minor trancework.

The only thing that you’re really impeded from in tough circumstances are prolonged and involved ritual, such as a multi-day consecration of a talisman or a full Solomonic evocation of a spirit.  Admittedly, these can be difficult, especially when you need a material embodiment of something to act as a vessel for power.  What can you do?  Be subtle and minimal, as always!  When consecrating a talisman, do the major work in the astral first to build up the power being as elaborate as you want or can, then transfer that power from the astral into a simple object down here: a wooden plank, a wax mold, a cheap ring, whatever.  When doing evocation or conjuration, do it in the astral, and meet up with your spiritual allies and friends there frequently to keep tabs on what you send them out to do down here in the material world.  In fact, the majority of the stuff you can do in a physical temple you can do as well in an astral one, and building up your own astral space is an important aspect of much of modern magic and spirituality.

I won’t lie to you: having the physical space, time, privacy, and resources to engage in the occult is an awesome thing, and it does help immensely to have all this stuff, and I look forward to the day when the dude who emailed me can move out on his own and explore his own spirituality as thoroughly as he desires.  That said, it’s by no means necessary for the practice and study of the occult.  Humanity has always been able to practice the occult and spirituality in even the most dire of circumstances, with the harshest conditions, under penalty of death and worse; this shit is our birthright, and the spirits of the cosmos want us to engage with them and with the cosmos in whatever way is most appropriate and suitable for us.  To that end, they’ll be more than glad and ready to help us in whatever way we can, and they’ll try to communicate with us in whatever way we are able to.  Whether we use the spiritual equivalent of a next-gen cellphone with the clearest call quality ever or a tin-can phone across the cul-de-sac, the spirits will respond; whether we use the Golden Dawn-style or John Dee’s style of pronouncing Enochian, the Enochian angels will still catch our drift; the connection may not be as clear or as easy to understand, but the connection will still be there.  So long as you make the effort to work the magic you want and need to work, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

On Kinetic Meditation, or DIY You Lazy Bastards

As some of my readers have noticed, I’ve begun taking commissions for designs and tools over on my Services page.  This is a fantastic opportunity for me, since it helps get me a small cash flow on the side while getting more experience in crafting, and it also helps various occultists and magicians across the globe get tools and supplies they need for their work from these oh-so-learned hands of mine.  However, in starting this, I have learned a few lessons that aren’t that fun: it’s hard to balance commissions with other work and Work going on, and it also brings up the issue of buyer responsibility to both me and themselves.  That latter one is something that’s been gnawing on me as of late, and I’m going to basically institute a new rule for myself on taking commissions.

(Don’t worry; if you’ve already gotten a commission from me, I’m still going to complete it.  All orders already made will be honored, of course, but

So, Fr. Rufus Opus has this idea called “kinetic meditation”, where one does a particular activity as a kind of magical or contemplative act by itself.  In performing that act, one syncs or aligns one’s sphere with that particular activity.  What we might call kinetic meditation in magic might be better described as, well, “practice” in anything more physical or tangible: sports, engineering, cooking, whatever.  In other words, by actually doing the thing, you not only become better at it but start incorporating it into yourself and thinking processes.  A well-trained chef, for instance, can whip up a complex dinner with minimal planning because he intuitively understands what goes together and how to prepare it without much thought, relying on shortcuts and drawn-out procedures alike as needed.  A pro soccer player doesn’t have to plan every action out or check with his teammates; he acts instinctively, reacting as well as and at the same time as acting on the field.   A competent programmer doesn’t always need an API and syntax guide open for a given program, but spews out code that works and works well as if he were writing a Facebook message to his good friends.  This sort of practice builds muscle memory, reflexes, split-second thinking, and a deep intuitive understanding of how things work.  It’s not easy, sure, but it makes things easier given enough time and practice.

Magic and meditation, on the other hand, is far more a mental and spiritual process, and to perform kinetic meditation with this stuff requires something physical.  RO gives examples such as actually drawing out the complete Circle of Art from the Lemegeton Goetia, or drawing by hand the lamens used in conjuration of the angels.  I might suggest (and one which timed up perfectly with my getting my acceptance letter into RO’s classes back in 2011) getting a compass, straightedge, and coloring pencils and drawing out the Tree of Life based on its mathematical properties.  Performing calligraphy with the names of God, singing barbarous words of power, drinking herbal infusions of specific plants to see their effects on the body, all that can be considered kinetic meditation in some way or another.  All this has the effect of helping the magician intuitively and automatically understanding the designs, words, incantations, processes, and supplies used in our ritual.  For magic and meditation, kinetic meditation is the process of aligning ourselves with our Work, and is crucial for any significant level of success.

For me, the process of kinetic meditation started from day 0, when I first saw the Table of Practice design to use.  I studied the design, memorized the components of it, practiced visualizing the Table in my mind until I could hold it indefinitely, learned the Celestial Hebrew script so I could write out the names of the planetary angels, and drew it out many times on scrap pieces of paper for practice.  Later, I got on Adobe Illustrator and produced my own version, after having understood the components and purpose of it and after having studied other associations I could augment or modify it with.  Then I practiced drawing that out, then I got the supplies together and made my own official wooden Table of Practice, which I’ve been using ever since.  Similarly, I did the same with the lamens of the planetary angels, memorizing each one’s sigil and name and how to spell or draw them out, I visualized them with colors, I memorized and intoned the names of God around the lamens, and so forth; then I printed them out, prettied them up, and have used them ever since.  I did the same with my Circle of Art, my Wand(s), and everything else.  It’s exceedingly and increasingly rare for me to just up and use a particular tool nowadays that I haven’t already analyzed, understood, and integrated into my own sphere.

In other words, if I can’t manage a replica of the thing astrally both in form and function down to the minutest detail, and draw it out or make it from memory (with minimal memory refreshing), I don’t consider myself ready to use it yet physically.

Now, that’s what I consider appropriate learning and education in tools in magic.  And yet, here I am offering to make these same tools for others, depriving them of the same joys and frustrations I had, and of all the kinetic meditation I did, that they might be able to have all for themselves with an equal (and minimal) amount of work.  So, here’s the deal from here on out.  If you want set up a commission for a tool, email/pay me and let me know as you already would and do.  I probably won’t turn you down unless I’m busy for the time being or unless I think it’s a terrible idea, for anyone involved.  However, you better know what it is you’re asking for and you better be able to at least conceptually have it ready for yourself in your mind’s eye and astral form.  Don’t get a commission from me because you want “someone who knows what they’re doing” or “someone initiated to do it for me”.  I know what I’m doing because I did the work for myself, not because I had someone else do it for me.  All the initiations I’ve gone through are from the spirits themselves, and they’re all for you as well if you ask and are ready for them, and if you’re not initiated for something you need, you don’t need it anyway.  Ask for a commission if you honestly are unable or don’t have the resources for something, or if you lack the crafting skills to make something you otherwise comprehend and understand for a quality piece of work.

Caveat emptor, my readers.  My tools are not meant for those who want to make things easy on themselves.  My tools are meant for those who want to make their work go farther and harder.

Upcoming Classes at Sticks and Stones!

After a long while of not having classes at Sticks and Stones, the local new age/earth-based spirituality store I do readings at, the lovely owners and I finally came up with a few classes and workshops for me to teach through the rest of 2013.   After all, being one of the few ceremonial magicians in the area, I’ve got a lot of experience and knowledge under my belt (though by no means enough) to share around with folks willing enough to hear me out and pay a small-but-reasonable fee.  With that in mind, here’s my teaching schedule for the first half of 2013.  All the classes will be on Sunday afternoons.

Greek Alphabet Divination ($30), Sunday 9/29, 2pm ~ 4:30pm
Alphabets and letters have always been held as magical tools and powers in their own right, and have been used as a form of divination in countless cultures.  Much like the Nordic runes, the ancient Greeks had their own method of letter-based divination or “grammatomancy”, where each letter has a particular oracular meaning.  When combined with the other astrological and magical meanings that the Greek alphabet has gained over the centuries, this can become a powerful divination and magical tool indeed!  Join yours truly in discussing the origins, development, and use of the Greek alphabet for easy-to-use divination and magic.  A copy of his first 60pp. publication, “De Grammatomanteia”, is included with the course for reference and study.  No prior knowledge is necessary, though a familiarity with the basics of divination and magical ideas would be helpful.

Introduction to the Headless Rite ($30), Sunday 10/13, 2pm ~ 4:30pm
Written 2000 years ago in Egypt, the powerful ritual known as the Headless Rite has been used for exorcism by mages in the Mediterranean, knowledge and conversation of the higher Self by Samuel MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley, and empowerment over harmful forces by countless other magicians.  Join yours truly in discussing the origins, development, and use of this ritual as he shows participants how and where to use the ritual to get the most out of it, both in the physical and the astral.  No prior knowledge is necessary, but a desire for ultimate cosmic power would be appreciated.

Basic Magical Tools and Supplies ($15), Sunday 11/3, 2pm ~ 4pm
Magic can be seen as the use of higher forces to attain lower ends or vice versa, and has been practiced differently by countless traditions, groups, lodges, and people across the ages.  That said, you don’t need to be a Wiccan to use an athame or a Christian to use holy oil!  Some magical supplies can be made, created, or adapted for any practitioner of magic for fantastic results.  Join Sam Block to discuss what forms magical tools can take, how to create basic tools and supplies, and methods to augment and empower yourself with everyday blessings and items you wouldn’t otherwise consider magical.  No prior knowledge is necessary.

Thinking With Planets ($15), Sunday 11/10, 2pm ~ 3:30pm
A lot of modern magical traditions focus on using the four elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, occasionally with the fifth element of Spirit, as the primary or only forces of their work.  However, even a few hundred years ago, magicians of all kinds used another set of forces: the planets!  With the powers of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, magicians were able to accomplish a lot more a lot faster, including directly affecting the elements themselves.  Join yours truly to learn how to introduce the use of the planets into your own work, basic magical timing, and how to connect the planets to the elements and vice versa.  No prior knowledge is necessary.

Introduction to Angelic Conjuration ($30), Sunday 12/8, 2pm ~ 4:30pm
When you hear about “conjuration”, do you think of pompous magicians in ruined castles wielding swords and hurling imperious threats at misunderstood spirits bound in arcane circles?  Then stop by with yours truly and learn the truth about ceremonial magic’s most famous type of ritual!  He will go over how conjuration really works, its history and roots in shamanic practices, proper conjuration etiquette, and a complete and easy introduction to conjuring and chatting with angels.  With little more than a circle and a glass of water, you too can start a magical practice with some of the most powerful and easily accessible forces in the cosmos!  Some knowledge of planets and spirits in the Western Mystery Tradition would be appreciated.

Dear readers, you have a good idea of what I know, do, and write about.  If you were (or are) able to stop by for a class or two, what other classes would you like to see taught?  I’m planning my two-day geomancy class for sometime early in 2014, but I also have a few other ideas.  What might you think would go well for a broadly introductory or basic topic for workshops?

Altar and Ritual Framework for Manifestation

After lots of talks with the angels and figuring out how exactly to accomplish something magically, I think I’ve finally settled into a pattern for a manifestation ritual using my magician’s altar, properly called a Table of Manifestation.  Because, you know, it manifests shit.  Fr. Rufus Opus has described the magician’s altar as their terminal to access the cosmos and put in requests or commands to it to magically alter it.  He put up his now well-known Altar Glyph to describe the schematics of such an altar:

Frater Rufus Opus' Altar Glyph

For background on why the altar is set up the way it is, I suggest reading up Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7).  The altar layout, representing our perception and vantage point outwards from the whole cosmos, is primarily designed according to the elements, the building blocks of the world we happen to find ourselves in.  Thus, the things that are fiery are placed in the East, airy in the West, watery in the North, and earthy in the South.  From the inside outwards, we have things under our direct control, things we choose to let loose or bind in the cosmos (this is represented by the four demon princes of the elements, which I hide wrapped up in black silk under my altar and left alone; the surface of the altar uses the central point as the ritual focus space).  Outside that we have the four archangelic kings and the legions of forces/forces themselves that the magician will call upon to bring something into manifestation.  Beyond that we have the four elemental tools, our means to work with both the terrestrial elements and the celestial planets, which allow us to work throughout the cosmos.  Beyond those we have representations of the seven planetary forces, each aligned according to their element, which act as pumps or sources for those forces to pull from.  Beyond that we have…well, really, anything else.  A consecrated candle or lamp is helpful to have, positioned to the East to represent the Infinite Light and Source of All.

Consecrating the Ring of Solomon

This picture illustrates my altar layout, set up for consecrating my magic ring of Solomon a while back.  In the middle is the ritual focus, which is here the ring to be consecrated put atop a Kamea of the Sun as given by Agrippa (book II, chapter 22).  Closest to the focus are four amethyst crystals, each a different Platonic solid, which I use as representations of the four archangelic kings and their forces (tetrahedron/d4 for Michael, octahedron/d8 for Raphael, icosahedron/d20 for Gabriel, cube/d6 for Auriel), each aligned to their proper elemental direction.  Just beyond those I have my four elemental weapons: the Wand of Fire in the East, the Sword of Air in the West, the Cup of Water in the North, and the Disc of Earth in the South.  Outside those I have the seven planetary talismans, again each aligned according to their elemental direction: Mars and the Sun in the East, Jupiter and Venus in the West, Saturn and Mercury in the North, and the Moon in the South.  At the edge of the altar I have my consecrated candle (set in the East) and incense burner, and nearby I have other tools and supplies as needed.

So, I had all these fancy tools lying around on this table I got from Ikea a while back, but…well, never really used them.  Sure, it serves as a display and storehouse for all the energy and forces I work with where I can use or draw on them as necessary, but mostly it sits there gathering dust.  Sure, I use it as a focus to charge stuff I consecrate, but I never really used it in ritual.  It took a lot of figuring out for me about what to use the elemental weapons for; perhaps it’s because of my lack of modern neopagan training or because the old grimoires never really used this set of tools, but I never really got into the habit of using them.  It’s only through continued talks with the angels who have instructed me in their symbolism as well as their ritual use that I got into the habit of using them in ritual, and I’ve finally pieced together how to use them all coherently in a ritual for manifestation.

I feel like this is about as basic and introductory a topic I can get to, but honestly, it (embarrassingly) took me a while to get to this point to even write about this much.  To help prevent other magicians and newbies to magic from getting stuck on how to use that fancy altar with all them tools, here’s a framework I ended up using to manifest or alter something using the magician’s altar.  Influences from this come mostly from the Trithemius ritual of conjuration, as well as elements from the Clavicula Solomonis and other rituals here and there.  Essentially, the ritual framework describes a kind of shortened conjuration but without a crystal, concentrating the force of some sphere or other onto a ritual focus to effect change instead of just a mere chat with an angel or other spirit.

Before even getting anything together, make sure you have an actual intent, goal, and method to accomplish something you want to change.  It’s all well and good to ask the angels for good shit, but it’s better to state clearly what exactly you want from the cosmos, for what purpose you want it, and in what way you plan to obtain or otherwise accomplish what you want.  As always in magic, the more specific you make your request, the more exact and refined your result will be.  It helps to do some prior divination or chatting with the angels or spirits you’ll be working with to make sure your magical plan of attack is solid, as well as making sure any physical activity or material means you want to back up with magic are going to work as well.  When you have that done, figure out the time in which to perform the ritual.  Figuring out the planetary hour and day best associated with the intent and goal is awesome, as is finding a suitable election, or you might just use the phase of the Moon (waxing or waning, full or new) or the direction in which the clock hands move (both up, both down, etc.).  Once you have the basics done, you’ve got a plan.

As with any ritual, start with preparation.  Make sure your altar’s in good order with all the supplies you need at hand (charcoal, lighter, holy water, incense, etc.).  Put on your magical garments and talismans, along with the requisite prayers if needed, as well as prepare yourself with aspersion or ablution with holy water.  You might also consider energetically linking the tools on the table to the central focus, a la Jarandhel’s notion of a crystal grid, to tie everything more closely in practice.  Do whatever energy work, quarter-calling, sevenths-calling, banishing and balancing ritual, or whatever you like to do to get yourself in the proper mindset.  Most importantly, pray.  Pray for guidance, pray for holiness, pray for strength, pray for protection, pray for wisdom, but pray.  You might also call on the help of your HGA, patron gods, supernatural assistants, or similar to empower yourself and make more effective the ritual you’re about to perform.  I generally do all the preparation just before the ritual begins, in the closing minutes of the planetary hour prior to when I want to do my ritual.  As for the actual intent or thing to manifest, the use of a sigil, talisman, figurine, or other stand-in is often helpful; I typically create a sigil with my desire or will and use that.

Once you’re sufficiently prepared and once the appointed time has come, light the candle and consecrate the flame to officially begin the ritual.  Take up the wand, sword, or whatever other tool of intent you prefer up to and including your dominant hand and trace out a circle around your working area, blessing and consecrating the area for the work.  This could be around the altar if it’s free-standing or around a Circle of Art if you’re working within one, with the tool pointed downward at the ground, or around the perimeter of the room if the altar’s not free-standing or if you’d like to use more space than allowed in a Circle, with the tool pointed upward towards the conjunction of the ceiling and walls.  Light the incense and consecrate it, waiting a few seconds to let the incense smoke rise up and fill the space a bit.  I generally wait until I can distinctly smell it for a few seconds before continuing unless I’m in a huge rush.

Now it’s time to call the spirits you’ll be working with.  If you have something specific to consecrate under a particular force, call up the spirits associated with that force; e.g., for solar spirits, you might choose Michael, Nakhiel, and Sorath, along with the aid or blessing of any solar patron deities, familiars, or allies you might have.  If you want to effect some significant change in the cosmos, you might do well to call up all seven planets and all four elements.  Agrippa lists several types of spirits for both the planets and elements and don’t appear to match up immediately, but after talking with both kinds of angels and with Rufus Opus a bit, here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. Divine force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Atziluth, also associated with the divine Intellect or the element of Fire.  Among the planets, this is the aspect or emanation of God as represented by the godnames of the sephiroth.  Among the elements, however, which are all in the sephirah Malkuth, they’re all kinda lumped together; due to their distant, material nature, the four elements are part of the same divine force.
  2. Mental force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Briah, also associated with the mental abstractions and ideals and the element of Air.  Among the planets, these are the planetary angels.  There is no corollary between this and the elements, since the elements are too low in manifestation to reach this high up in the cosmos.
  3. Guiding force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Yetzirah, also associated with production, feeling, and desire and the element of Water.   These forces indicate how things should be directed and manifested in the world, the design that fulfills the requirements given to the mental force above.  Among the planets, these are the planetary intelligences; among the elements, they are the elemental archangelic kings.
  4. Active force, or the force in the qabbalistic world Assiah, also associated with the concrete force as controlled and effective as well as the element of Earth.  These are like the personified or belegioned forces themselves as opposed to the directing rules or guides; it’s like the charge in a battery instead of the wires that connect it to a radio, which indicate how that charge should flow.  Among the planets, these are the planetary spirits, and among the elements they are the elemental rulers.  Any familiar spirits, elemental or planetary allies, or angels from the forces’ respective choirs are also members of the active force.
  5. Manifesting force, or the force that actually pops up and does stuff in the material world.  These are spirits that actually do and create stuff on this plane with the four elements, the building blocks of this world that the other forces have to manifest through; because of this, there are no planetary forces that fulfill this role, since they’re too abstract and unformed to manifest directly in Malkuth.  Instead, these spirits are strictly elemental, specifically the elemental princes (Oriens, Paymon, etc.), who are close to goetic demons, but are so close to manifested reality that they can directly manifest things on behalf of the higher forces that guide them.  The demonic princes (Samael, Mahazael, etc.) do this too, but in ways that are shitfully terribad (ergo, don’t call on them).

Once you call up the relevant spirits for the forces you want to work with, thank them for their presence, since it always pays to be polite.  Once you get everyone together, the process is fairly straightforward:

  1. Declare your charge to the cosmos and to the spirits present.  Clearly, authoritatively, meaningfully, and wholeheartedly proclaim what you want the spirits gathered to help you achieve and attain in the cosmos, what needs changing or removing or adding to the cosmos, and how you want the manifested thing to take form and effect in your life and reality.  If you have an object, sigil, or figure that represents your intent, display it to the four corners, to the heavens, and to the earth, then place it in the focus of the altar.
  2. With the Wand, call on the divine forces present to turn your Will into cosmic Law.  Proclaim your intent and desired goal, establish your will as something the cosmos, universe, and world shall fulfill, and call on the blessing of the divine force and the assistance of the guiding forces to assist you.  Take up the Wand, point at the ritual focus, and have the Infinite Light begin to manifest around the focus and intent-object (if any).
  3. With the Sword, call on the mental forces present to turn your Reason into cosmic Design.  Straighten the path between divine intent and manifest reality, cut out all obstacles or impediments to manifestation, sharpen your stated will into implementable method, and call on the assistance of the mental force to reverberate the cosmos with your desire and plan.  Take up the Sword, cut the area around the ritual focus, and penetrate into the ritual focus area with the point to let the Light begin to fill the focus.
  4. With the Cup, call on the guiding forces present to turn your Emotion into cosmic Direction.  Pour out your need, fill the world with your desire, and guide the flow of forces you call upon to fill up and take form within the cosmos, calling on the assistance of the guiding forces to direct, guide, and flow the force called upon into manifested reality.  Take up the Cup, make a pouring gesture with it around in a clockwise pattern closing in on the ritual focus, filling the focus with the force you desire and taking form in the manner you desire.
  5. With the Disc, call on the active and manifesting forces present to turn your Reality into cosmic Manifestation.  Actualize your desire, manifest your goal, and have what you desire and will be made concrete, real, physical, material, and effective in all the stated ways, calling on the assistance of the active and manifesting forces to bring the desired goal into manifestation.  Take up the Disc and lower it down onto the ritual focus, pressing the form into concrete, hard shape and seeing it as real as the Disc itself.
  6. Finalize your charge to the cosmos and to the spirits present.  Reiterate your will, intent, desire, and goal to the spirits, proclaim it sealed and finished, and declare your work finished by the authority, power, strength, wisdom, and Light within you and within your manifested intent.  Charge the intent-object by suffumigating it in the incense while repeating any prayers, intoning any mantras or sacred sounds, or visualizing force flowing in and strengthening the intent and manifestation as you find necessary.  Focus the Light from the candle and the Light within yourself onto the ritual focus, supercharging it as bright as the Infinite Light itself, and sending it off as a discrete entity into the cosmos.  Declare the work done using a Great Amen, “So Mote It Be”, “Thus have I spoken/thus are the words”, or similar closing, final statement.

After this, you’re pretty much done.  Ask for any follow-up advice or directions, thank the spirits for their presence and aid, bid them farewell, and give them leave to depart.  Afterward, make any thanksgiving prayers to the Infinite Source, to your patrons or HGA or supernatural assistants, and to any spirits of the cosmos you may find helpful or meaningful.  Put out the candle, remove the ring and ritual garb, and clean up.  You’re done.  Let the intent-object stay in the altar focus for however long you desire, or keep it in a place that can be easily accessed or viewed until the intent is manifested according to your desire.

This is a framework for a ritual, not a ritual itself, since the ritual specification can change depending on what exactly needs to happen; e.g., for consecration of an object under a planetary force, you might do away with calling on the elemental spirits and the use of the Disc entirely, or any of the elemental tools, perhaps using the planetary talisman instead as your tool to channel the force of the planet desired.  The prayers and calls needed for the ritual can also change drastically, but the links I’ve provided above give good grimoire examples of what you might use.  All told, for manifesting things in the cosmos, the above framework is pretty solid, if I do say so myself.

The studious or observant magician will notice that, although I’ve included the forces of the elements and the planets, I haven’t mentioned the sphere of the fixed stars and their forces.  This isn’t because I don’t think they’re worthless, but it’s because I don’t have experience of working with them yet.  In the future, I may begin doing just that, perhaps including the angels of the zodiac signs or the lunar mansions as the guiding forces and Raziel/Iophiel (depending on which text you’re reading) as the mental force, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  Still, the use of the fixed stars isn’t absolutely necessary, though I’m sure it helps; calling on the aid of the planets or elements is quite enough, and enough pagans and more simple magicians than me get by fine with just the four elements, so YMMV.

Tools and Progression

Though it might be shocking to some, even though I’d like to have my professional title on business cards be “mage”, I’m a software engineer by trade, having gotten a B.S. in computer science from a well-established engineering school, with a focus on metrics in the software engineering process.  I run a Linux system (or three) at home, and prefer to stick to working with UNIX systems in the otherwise Windows-dominated environment at work, and *NIX systems have been my primary platform for a number of years now, even dating back to when I was using Mac OS.  Basically, I’m a geek in more ways than magically.

Part of the joy about using *NIX systems is the use of the command line interface (CLI) or terminal, which is by no means an old, obsolete, or archaic way of dealing with the computer, though it might be a little arcane or intimidating for a newbie.  In some ways, it’s more powerful than using the graphical user interface (GUI), since things are entered in directly as commands with well-specified parameters and arguments.  This allows programs to be chained in a way that normal execution through a GUI does not allow; I can output several lines of text from a file, search for a word, make new files with the lines of text that contain those words, and copy them to multiple places around the computer in a line or two of commands, versus spending 20+ minutes doing it by pointing, clicking, typing, dragging, copying, pasting, etc.  Though it might take a little practice or thought, the ability to script or link commands together is a powerful tool.

However, this relies on crucial assumptions that most *NIX programs make as a matter of philosophy, which dominate programming and development for *NIX systems and have for decades now.  Some of the more important ones relevant to this conversation include:

  • Modularity: write simple parts connected by clean interfaces.
  • Composition: design programs to be connected to other programs.
  • Extensibility: design for the future, becasue it will be here sooner than you think.

Basically, design programs to work as tools for other programs.  This is what allows the commands grep, ls, cat, and echo to be so simple yet so powerful, and lets the CLI be so honored and respected even after decades of GUI use.  There’s a learning curve, sure, but so does any art, and when one has a thorough understanding of one’s tools coupled with a bit of ingenuity and inspiration, one can wield tremendous power using relatively little effort.

It’s like that with the occult, too.  In my practice, I have a multitude of tools from wands to planetary talismans to swords to bottles of oils and blessed water and any number of other things.  Some of my tools include ritual arrangements, some include energetic processes, and some include lengthy prayers and orisons to be used, but they all accomplish something or are intended for a purpose.  The real force of ritual doesn’t rely on any one tool, but the use of at least one tool in conjunction with others to accomplish something: the use of a wand and a prayer to invoke an angel, setting up crystals and an orgone generator to charge a ritual, or the use of incense, prayers, candles, and talismans to bless an event at an astrologically elected time.  In other words, tools are meant to be used together, much like *NIX programs in the CLI.  Incense of benzoin and storax on its own is nice, as is an invoation to Hermes, as is a bit of orange cloth that’s easy on the eyes, but it’s using them together to create a ritual and accomplish a goal that any one of them could not that shows the real beauty of modularity and composition.

What’s beautiful about the use of tools in tandem to accomplish a goal is that they permit flexibility and innovation.  A tool that does one thing might be able to be used in a way completely unexpected from its original intent: a wand, for instance, was originally a cane to beat people up with, but was viewed by some as a symbol of authority, thence to Will, thence to directing and enforcing things in a ritual.  Though some tools may act as if they have a mind of their own, they have a function and are committed to carrying out that function, no more and no less.  This means that some tools can be used together in really stupid ways to do things that might end up no better than doing something simply another way, or maybe even worse than not doing it at all.  But, by the same token, this allows tools to be used in creative, clever, and potentially groundbreaking ways that were never originally envisioned.

As my HGA once told me, by coming up with, building, or obtaining tools for ourselves, we build new doors, which leads to new and better tools, which leads to new doors, and so on.  Tools are an essential part of my (our?) work, because they permit access to new places, new powers, and progress.  Even if an idea or function is well-understood on the theoretical level, the implementation of it is just as necessary in order to use that idea with other ideas.  This matter of experimentation is crucial in the Art, since it too is a kind of science (literally “knowing”); theorizing and hypothesizing is necessary, but it cannot fully show the implications and materializations of an idea until it and its side effects are fully explored.  This is similar to why Frater RO suggests kinetic meditation in making one’s tools by hand, or meditating and drawing out a spirit’s seal multiple times prior to conjuration, or similar practice so that one can really integrate the tool into one’s sphere.  It’s this integration that allows for clever creativity, which generally leads to more success and newer avenues of exploration than dumb luck made from blind execution.

In a sense, magic cannot alone be done astrally, lest it stay astral; there has to be some materialization, some grounding, some building involved down here to make the process complete.  One may have an etheric nayati or astral temple or whatnot, complete with tools and pentacles aplenty, but without having physical counterparts, it’s much harder to grok the complete use and functionality of something when it’s never been experienced in the flesh.  Don’t forget that humans, as material, physical creatures, need to work with things materially and physically in some way in order to make sense of the cosmos, which is also at least in part material and physical.  The use of physical tools and an altar is not absolutely necessary, just as a toolbox and spare lumber isn’t needed to build a shelter, but the difference between using tools and not using them can be like that between stringing up a tarp in an alleyway and a decked-out palace.  They both accomplish the same goal, sure, but one has a lot more potential and strength when you’ve got something to build with.